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MS Dhoni, the finisher or builder? India wants to know

MS Dhoni’s changed persona from fun loving and adventurous to a soulful family man has also reflected in the way he has approached sessions at the nets in recent times.

india vs west indies 2017 Updated: Jul 10, 2017 09:16 IST
Khurram Habib
MS Dhoni’s batting has been under the scanner for quite some time now.
MS Dhoni’s batting has been under the scanner for quite some time now.(AFP)

MS Dhoni, who turned 36 on Friday, has spent his time here quietly with his daughter Ziva and wife Sakshi even as teammates, including Yuvraj Singh, have enjoyed the Caribbean beaches, trying their hands on jet-skiing.

MS Dhoni’s changed persona from fun loving and adventurous to a soulful family man has also reflected in the way he has approached sessions at the nets in recent times.

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During the time he led India, MS Dhoni hitting big shots out of the ground, sometimes even damaging cars in the parking lot, was par for the course. However, of late, he has looked quieter in the nets, more circumspect, rarely opening his shoulders.

Says a team member, “It is also because he is batting up the order and is restructuring his batting.” Maybe.

Over the years MS Dhoni had built a reputation with his power-hitting capabilities in the slog overs, helping India finish off matches. But since he quit captaincy, MS Dhoni is apparently trying to reconfigure himself as proper middle-order batsman.

He has tasted the odd success but the list of failures is significant.

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MS Dhoni’s failure to finish off the fourth ODI in Antigua perhaps shows how he has struggled to pull out big shots with regularity and more importantly, how safe he wants to play.

The list of innings where MS Dhoni failed to do the job in recent times is reasonably long — in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan, he made just 4 off 16 balls when the need was to stay on after early loss of wickets.

Before that, in the ODI series against England, he threw his wicket away twice. Once he left the team struggling at 173/5 with 150 runs to get off 18.2 overs. He made 25 off 36 and was caught playing away from his body. In another game, he lobbed a simple catch to leave India at 63/4 while chasing 350. India eventually won that game.

In the ODIs against New Zealand, where he captained, MS Dhoni made 192 runs in five ODIs with a fifty (80). In the two matches India lost, MS Dhoni got out at crucial stages while chasing modest targets.

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Though, there were two instances in the past season where he played the role of an anchor and stabilised the innings after early jitters. But these have been few and far between.

It seems MS Dhoni isn’t quite sure about how to approach the game at the fag end of his career — should he consolidate or should he go slam bang way, like he used to.

While playing the consolidating role, MS Dhoni’s technique is getting questioned and every time he is dismissed in an awkward manner, it is coming into focus.

However, skipper Virat Kohli isn’t reading too much into it. “You can’t really judge a guy’s batting form at the nets because you don’t know what kind of a wicket you are going to get. He is striking the ball beautifully. You don’t need to tell him, how to play in a situation and build an innings.”

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Even as the captain thinks he is doing fine, MS Dhoni’s approach at the nets, however, does betray a sense of trying hard to fit himself in.

Maybe, the tour of Sri Lanka may give us a clearer picture.